We mark Ian anniversary with action

Share this post!

Today is a difficult anniversary for many Southwest Floridians. On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian claimed 149 lives, devastated entire communities and impacted tens of thousands of families. Many still struggle today. We choose to mark this anniversary by being the light in the storm.

To understand what we’re about to do this afternoon, on the first anniversary of Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Southwest Florida, you need to understand our mission.

We believe families can overcome a crisis when they have community support and resources. We have families who volunteer to care for children in their home short term while their parents find housing or work, get treatment or recover from a medical emergency, or any number of crises. We have volunteers who mentor parents, walk with them on this journey, encourage them, be a friend to them. We have job coaches who connect the jobless to employers who will value them. And we have volunteers who serve as support and provide resources, like diapers and formula or a hot meal.

Immediately after Hurricane Ian, we called on our volunteers to be boots on the ground, taking supplies to families in need. We knew this storm could throw many more families into crisis. Some couldn’t get to hurricane relief centers. They were stranded in their homes by storm water or lack of transportation. Many had needs that went beyond water and food. From North Fort Myers to Naples, we brought supplies, diapers, formula and hope. Our volunteers not only delivered, but they also looked for additional needs. And we came back.

We tarped roofs, offered emergency child care and provided temporary homes to children of families displaced by the storm. We held a job fair for those who lost their jobs, literally, overnight.

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris visits Suncoast Estates with Better Together staff and volunteers Thursday, October 6, 2022.

We worked with community and public partners. Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris often walked with us door to door to let families know about the resources the state could provide. When her team saw areas where need was greater, they alerted our staff.

All year long, we have walked alongside families to prevent life’s storms from sending them further into crisis and to help them grow stronger. Volunteers have opened their homes and cared for the children of parents who wanted to seek treatment or needed time to find permanent housing or jobs.

This summer, we launched our Be the Light campaign, taking solar-powered, portable lights door to door in the same neighborhoods where we delivered supplies last fall. Our purpose was to help prepare families for the next storm and to remind them that we’re here for all of life’s storms. That we have volunteers who can be a supportive friend and help them navigate a bumpy road. That we have volunteers who have been background-checked so that they can care for children in their homes to give moms and dads the space they need to work through a difficult time.

Through our outreach, we found many families still struggling with storm recovery. Many rent but their landlords have not completed repairs. Some own their homes, but government resources and private insurance did not make them whole. A dad with six children at home has been able to eke by but still needs a bed for his 10-year-old. A mom of three makes do without the furniture she lost in the storm. A mom of four has not been able to replace her washer and dryer and struggles simply to provide diapers and wipes for her baby.

Today (Thursday, September 28, 2023), Better Together staff and volunteers are making a special Be the Light delivery. We’re bringing our lights and supplies, but we bring additional resources, too, like those beds. No family should struggle alone. Better Together can help families navigate the path of resilience.

By strengthening our families, we strengthen our community.

Together, we are #FloridaStrong.

Posted Thursday, September 28, 2023

Share this post!

We are Participating in Give4Marion, and Need Your Support!

Join us for a 33-hour campaign dedicated to raising money and awareness for nonprofit organizations doing good in Marion County. Fundraising kicks off today and ends at 7 p.m. tomorrow.